I’ve spent many a summer evening sprawled out on a plastic chair in the middle of Stevenson Square, soaking up the sunshine (well, blistering my pasty complexion) and downing a fair few pints. But, there’s always been a mysterious magnetic force pulling at me from Faraday Street, that sits just behind the square.
Perched on the secluded alleyway is The Peer Hat, a pub that’s full of personality and various knick-knacks that take me right back to my Cambridge Halls student bedroom, a place where I used to clean my dishes in my bathroom sink and eat handfuls of Crunchy Nut for me tea.
In other words, the pub is a time-capsule treasure trove of familiarity, and a home away from home, perched behind the hustle and bustle of Northern Quarter’s nightlife.
The pub popped up back in 2017, after being taken over by self-confessed failed musicians and brothers, Mike and Nick, alongside their good friend Dom. Dom also owns AATMA, the gig space above the venue that was formerly Kraak Gallery.
The trio had all tried their hand at becoming figureheads of the Manchester music scene, drawing inspiration mainly from the likes of The Beatles and John Lennon, as well as other psychedelic bands of the 60s. But their plans for worldwide fame had failed, and they turned to their other love, which was booze and gigs.
“We were all just a bit sick of working for the man,” explained Mike.
“When we took over the space, we could’ve easily become another craft beer bar and, who knows, we might’ve made a bit more money! But, music and art was at the core of everything we wanted to do, it was almost as a direct resistance to the gentrification of the area and that’s what I think the venue has continued to embody.”
The Peer Hat attracts a certain type of clientele. It’s a bar where you know there’ll be no trouble, a place where you’ll find artists, creatives, musicians and a 60 year-old bloke who’s just stumbled in in desperate need of a pint to accompany his daily flick through the newspaper.
The space has a unique sense of community about it, not to use the cliché ‘you come in as a stranger and leave as a friend’, but at The Peer Hat you really do. It could be the pints talking, but it’s got an unbelievable charm and welcoming character that you want to spend some time getting to know.
As well as the pub’s eclectic setting for sinking beers, it also holds a gig venue in the basement, which serves as a place for local musicians, and those from further afield to perform at the venue that’s as laid back as your living room.
“On the day that we opened, we had Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth do a gig, which was mental,” furthered Mike. “We were serving him beer out of a bucket of ice because we hadn’t even set up the bar properly yet, and I was just stood there thinking how weird it was that this guy had been on the Simpsons!
“Another great gig was the Chinese band, Birdstriking, as we had to write a letter to the Chinese Consulate just to get the chance to expose them to our weirdly wonderful culture.”
Post COVID, The Peer Hat has managed to hold onto its space by a thread, mainly through the generosity of its community and those that couldn’t bear to be without the bar. But, as we all trawl through the final few hurdles thrown at us by the pandemic, The Peer Hat is finally getting itself back up on its feet.
“The past couple of years have been really tough for us, there’s no getting away from that. But we’re starting to see events coming back and the bar filling up again, we’ve even started to attract a mix of students!
“We’ve built a really strong community here, and I genuinely think that’s how we’re still standing.”
The Peer Hat is a bar that was set up by acid casualties and serves as an explosive extension of their greatest fantasy. It’s a place for people to come and be unapologetically themselves, surrounded by like-minded individuals in a setting you can easily see yourself writing your very first novel in.
Friday 11th February
Furrowed Brow are launching their brand-new single, ‘What Good’s A Hat Without A Mirror?’ at the Peer Hat next Wednesday! The band is described as bleak, glamourous ‘post-punk go-go’, for fans of; Magazine, Denim, B52s, The Cramps and The Fall. They’ll be joined by Adam & Elvis, Babel Station and Mark Corrin.
Friday 25th February
China Bears were formed in Somerset in 2015 by twin brothers Ivan (guitar / vox) and Frazer (guitar). The line-up was completed after meeting bassist James and drummer Dean at university in Guildford later that year. Perhaps unsurprisingly drawing influence from bands such as The National, Dry The River, Frightened Rabbit and Snow Patrol, China Bears create misery-strewn indie anthems combining ambient guitars, choral vocals and raw lyric writing.
Fair Play Festival
Saturday 2nd April
FAIR PLAY festival prides itself on being a fair playing field, an equal opportunity for all and a communal, collaborative event, featuring a diverse lineup that’s fair and accessible (inclusive of genre, gender, sexuality, race and beyond). It welcomes musicians that are dubbed as ‘alternative’ in all of its multiple forms and houses them under one roof, and 2022 aims to be a bigger and more exaggerated version of what was planned for both 2021 and 2020. It will take place at venues across Northern Quarter, including The Peer Hat, The Castle Hotel, SOUP, Gullivers and AATMA.
Hot Pink Sewage, Blob Halford & The Dirt
Friday 4th March
Hot Pink Sewage are Trashy Thrashy gutter punk-abilly with lo fi drum machine beats belched from the seaside town of Blackpool. Also on the bill is Blob Halford, half American/half British stoner punks that are as tasteless, honest and charismatic as they are loud and grooving and The Dirt, Manchester-based DIY noise fused psych band that includes spoken word poet, Jack aka Leon the pig Farmer and his Japanese multi-instrumentalist wife Sachiko.
Sunday 17th April
English-Canadian YNES (born Kira Inez Riess) draws inspiration from both the DIY post-punk scene in North America, and the more refined likes of Lauran Hibberd and Kate Nash. It’s this exploration of genres, and self, that builds YNES’s hybrid Britpop-Punk sound. However, YNES’s ludicrously direct lyrics are what really sets her apart as an artist. Self-described as an “amateur singer-songwriter, professional f*ck-up”, nothing in her universe is ever taken too seriously, least of all YNES herself.